It seems that scarcely a day goes by without some news story about an encounter with humans and bears in British Columbia. Fortunately, injuries are rare, but unfortunately, the animals end up the victims, having to be killed in order to protect the public.
Last month saw the sensational account of a fisherman from Salt Spring Island who was on his boat, cleaning his catch in nearby Port Renfrew, when a black bear swam across the river, climbed into his boat and attacked him. It was only after several bystanders attacked and killed the bear with fishing gaffs and knives that the old, hungry animal relented.
This morning’s Times Colonist featured a story about a man beating to death a bear with a makeshift club after being attacked. Side note: Holy crap, get that guy the Manly-Man Of The Year Award!
As our urban development spreads further into forested and natural areas, these encounters become more common. Since living in Sooke, I’ve come across a couple of bears (from a distance, thankfully).
Here are a few safety tips to consider to keep you, your family, and the bears out of harm’s way:
- Consider storing your garbage cans and compost behind a fence to make it less tempting for wildlife.
- Stick to established, well-worn paths with good visibility. This will enable you to spot bears from a distance and you’ll be less likely to surprise one in dense foliage.
- Make some noise while hiking. Bears rarely want confrontation; most incidents are from surprising an animal.
- Be careful with food in the bush. Use food caches at Provincial parks, seal your garbage in plastic bags, and store food away from your tent
- Consider carrying bear spray, but don’t use it as a substitute for smart planning and avoidance techniques.
- Travel in groups – you’re safer in numbers. Don’t let kids or pets wander.
- If you come across dead wildlife, leave the area and report it to park staff; carcasses attract bears.
It’s our responsibility to protect bears from becoming food conditioned by being careful with our food supplies and our garbage. Most encounters occur with bears that become used to frequenting an area for an easy source of food. The only solution for a food conditioned bear is to destroy it, hence “A fed bear is a dead bear.”
For more safety tips and bear facts, the BC Parks website has an excellent bear safety page.
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